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Franz Alexander

Memorial in the Ludwigkirchstraße, Berlin
Born 22 January 1891(1891-01-22)
Died 8 March 1964 (aged 73)
Citizenship American
Nationality Hungarian
Fields psychoanalysis
Known for Psychosomatic medicine

Franz Gabriel Alexander (22 January 1891 – 8 March 1964) was an Hungarian American psychoanalyst and physician, who is considered one of the founders of the Psychosomatic medicine, and the psychoanalytic criminology.



Franz Gabriel Alexander, in Hungarian Alexander Ferenc Gábor, was born in Budapest in 1891 and studied in Berlin. There he was part of an influential group of German analysts, including Karen Horney and Helene Deutsch mentored by Karl Abraham, gathered around the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute.

In 1930 he was invited by Robert Hutchins, then President of the University of Chicago, to become its Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis in Chicago. Alexander worked there at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, where Paul Rosenfels was one of his students. End 1950s he was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research.

Franz Alexander died in Palm Springs, California in 1964.[1]


In the beginnings of the 20th century Franz Alexander led the movement looking for the dynamic interrelation between mind and body.[2] Sigmund Freud pursued a deep interest in psychosomatic illnesses following his correspondence with Georg Groddeck who was, at the time, researching the possibility of treating physical disorders through psychological processes.[3]

Together with Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi he developed the concept of autoplastic adaptation. They proposed that when an individual was presented with a stressful situation, he could react in one of two ways:

  • Autoplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change himself, i.e. the internal environment.
  • Alloplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change the situation, i.e. the external environment.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, numerous analysts were engaged with the question of how to shorten the course of therapy but still achieve therapeutic effectiveness. These included Sándor Ferenczi, Franz Alexander, Peter Sifneos, David Malan, and Habib Davanloo. One of the first discoveries was that the patients who tended to benefit the most greatly from therapy were those who could rapidly engage, could describe a specific therapeutic focus, and could quickly move to an experience of their previously warded-off feelings. These also happened to represent those patients who were the healthiest to begin with and therefore had the least need for the therapy being offered. Clinical research revealed that these patients were able to benefit because they were the least resistant. They were the least resistant because they were the least traumatised and therefore had the smallest burden of repressed emotion. However, among the patients coming to the clinic for various problems, the rapid responders represented only a small minority. What could be offered to those who represented the vast bulk of patients coming for treatment? See further Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy


  • 1931, The Criminal, the judge and the public: A psychological analysis. (Together with Hugo Staub. Orig. ed. transl. by Gregory Zilboorg).
  • 1960, The Western mind in transition : an eyewitness story. New York: Random House.
  • 1961, The Scope of psychoanalysis 1921 - 1961: selected papers. 2. pr. New York: Basic Books.
  • 1966, Psychoanalytic Pioneers. New York; London: Basic Books.
  • 1968, The history of psychiatry; An evaluation of psychiatric thought and practice from prehistoric times to the present. By Franz G. Alexander and Sheldon T. Selesnick. New York [etc.]: New American Libr.
  • 1969 [c1935] (with William Healy) Roots of crime: psychoanalytic studies, Montclair NJ: Patterson Smith.
  • 1980, Psychoanalytic therapy. Principles and application. Franz Alexander and Thomas Morton French.
  • 1984, The medical value of psychoanalysis. New York: Internat. Universities Pr., 1984. ISBN 0-8236-3285-7.
  • 1987, Psychosomatic Medicine: Its Principles and Applications. 2nd. ed., New York; London: Norton. ISBN 0-393-70036-4.


  1. ^ "Died". Time (magazine). 1964.,9171,940393,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-04. "Dr. Franz Gabriel Alexander, 73, Hungarian-born Freudian psychoanalyst who emigrated to the U.S. in 1930, became the prime founder of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis in 1932, helped pioneer psychosomatic medicine by linking a variety of physical ailments to longstanding emotional or personality disorders; of a heart attack; in Palm Springs, Calif." 
  2. ^ Asaad, Ghazi (1996). Psychosomatic Disorders: Theoretical and Clinical Aspects. Brunner-Mazel. pp. X, 129–130. ISBN 978-0876308035. 
  3. ^ Erwin, Edward (2002). The Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy and Culture. Routledge. pp. 245–246. ISBN 978-0415936774. 

Further reading

  • "Franz Alexander 1891-1964.", American journal of psychoanalysis 24: 115, 1964, PMID 14213975 
  • Benedek, T (1964), "In Memorian Franz Alexander 1891-1964.", Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 12: 877–81, 1964 Oct, PMID 14221041 
  • French, T M, "Franz Alexander , M.D. 1891-1964.", Psychosomatic medicine 26: 203–6, PMID 14157772 
  • French, T M (1964), "Franz Alexander (1891-1964).", Behavioral science 9 (2): 98–100, 1964 Apr, PMID 4867714 
  • Freyberger, H (1964), "[Obituray of Franz Alexander , 1891-1964.]", Zeitschrift für Psychotherapie und medizinische Psychologie 14: 169–70, 1964 Sep, PMID 14333921 
  • Kopp, M; Skrabski, A (1989), "What does the legacy of Hans Selye and Franz Alexander mean today? (The psychophysiological approach in medical practice).", International journal of psychophysiology : official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology 8 (2): 99–105, 1989 Nov, PMID 2684936 
  • McClean, H V (1965), "Franz Alexander, 1891-1964.", The International journal of psycho-analysis 46: 247–50, 1965 Apr, PMID 14341703 
  • Pollock, G H (1965), "In Memorian Franz Alexander : 1891-1964.", International journal of psychiatry 1: 306–10, 1965 Apr, PMID 14299014 
  • Pollock, G H (1964), "Franz Alexander 1891-1964.", Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 11: 229–34, 1964 Sep, PMID 14173116 

External links



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